Friday, April 27, 2012

Desert Solitaire Is Not A Real Species

Greater Roadrunner. As if I've seen any other kind. She was scurrying to and fro, inside the campground.

The title of this post is some advice for The Jen, who famously used to hate birds. She has not seen desert birds, and must be thoroughly educated before embarking on her imminent southwestern road trip.

Edward Abbey once wrote something along the lines of "There is no shortage of water in the desert, but exactly the right amount." This is true. Any more water, and the desert would no longer be the desert. Have you seen what has happened to our more watered lands? The last thing the world needs is more stripmalls, and their overwhelmingly horrible occupants.What would become of the roadrunners and Cactus Wrens? The Zebra-tailed Lizards and rattlesnakes? The peace and quiet?

As much as I love the desert, my last trip into cactus country was meant to focus on an oasis...Agua Caliente County Park, which floats within the arid ocean that is the Anza Borrego Wilderness. This park, due to its natural springs, is quite verdant compared to the surrounding patches of cholla and ocotillo. Migrant birds love it. Therefore, I had to go. I have fond memories of skulking around famous birding oases from my more awkward years...Butterbredt Springs, Galileo Hill, Deep Springs, Furnace Creek Ranch. I was really impressed with the volume of birds moving through Agua Caliente, it must get it's share of rarer birds later in the northern diaspora...seekers beware.

Here's the first cluster of pictures, I think there's a few species that have never been on BB&B before....stoked? Yeah, me too.

I'm still working on getting the correct Costa's Hummingbird picture. This one is an improvement. How would you describe those colors on it's mustache? It's so refreshing to have things other than Anna's Hummingbirds to look at again.

Brewer's Sparrows love deserts so much, they spend the year touring them. Their summers are spent in the high deserts (Great Basin scrub), and winters are spent in Mexico and the desert southwest.

Brewer's Sparrows assert their dominance. They're proclivity for unique song-writing and energetic performance is unparalleled in the sparrow realms.

Luckily for me, this Wilson's Warbler chose a color-matching place to grab a drink of water. It's one of the most common western migrants in spring, but always leads to dilated pupils.

Don't look too hard, you're not going to find a bird in this photograph. Sorry. It's just a hedgehog cactus. I really like, cacti. Me like bird too.

A female Black-throated Gray Warbler lashes a mesquite for insects. In other news, goddamn it is hard to get good warbler pictures.

White-winged Dove. It's a looker. Not quite a facemelter, but it could make you a bit weak in the knees.

This is a young White-winged's got a dark eye and grayer facial skin than the more vivid bird above.

This female Black-tailed Gnatcatcher found a nugget of goodness amid the desert duff. If you ever are feeling sadistic, start teaching yourself how to identify silent female gnatcatchers without looking at the undertail. Hellish stuff.

This is the young male Costa's Hummingbird you met earlier in the week. Apparently his tongue is almost as long as his body. Showoff.

I have better Phainopepla pictures, but this is the only one that documents their ability to transform into an umbrella. Desert birds need to be able to handle anything, including rain.

Agave bloom! A wellspring of life in a sea of death. Bats and moths get off on this stuff.


  1. =) Love the umbrella/feather duster. The desert is SO tasty. Nice blip of Costa's color, but the Wilson's is NUTS. I love that fan palm oasis. What a trippy spot.

    Begged you via gmail, fyi, for advice re: what freaky birds are in S.D. right now since I'm here today and tomorrow. Thanks in advance.

    1. I think I need to go out there one more time. Did you find the night-herons?

  2. I love deserts and desert oasis's. You just never know what you will find until you go.

    I had to get a napkin because I am drooling over some of these birds, the Roadrunner, Phainopepla and the Costa's Hummingbird are birds I would love to see and photograph.

    1. I was getting very dehydrated from all the drooling I did myself.

  3. What a right and proper good salute to the desert. Whether its cactus flowers or birds, there'a surprising amount of color and vivacity to be found in the arid spaces of North America.

    That Phainopepla shot is awesome and important. I had heard rumors of their abilities, but until now mankind had no proof. Love the Wilson's Warbler too. Him and the Common Yellowthroat are nemesis birds to photograph, but you captured that kippa-wearing warbler in all of its ornery yellowness. Prost!

    1. and me are in the same boat buddy.

  4. I am psyched on all of these birds. I appreciate you getting this post in just hours before I traverse into the wild desert frontier. That Wilson's shot is so matchy matchy it's ridiculous. Sweeeeet roadrunner, and oh my I can't wait for hummingbirds... Yeehaw.

    1. Who are you picking up in Arizona? Are they going to distract you from birding?

  5. Just when I thought my face couldn't possibly melt any more...that Wilson's and Phainopepla caused a whole new level of melt. Good stuff!